Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fizzy, probiotic goodness

Recently I have started brewing a beverage called water kefir. It is basically sugar water, fermented with a culture known as "grains". Don't worry, these are not the kind of grains you are avoiding on the GAPS diet! They are actually a matrix of beneficial bacteria and beneficial yeasts.

This drink is low in sugar (because the probiotics EAT most of it) and so is allowed on the GAPS diet. I will tell you how to make it.

Step 1: Get your hands on some grains. Ours came from Cultures For Health, but there are lots of places on the internet that sell them, or, see if a friend has extra!

Step 2: Prepare the grains. If you have fresh grains, skip this step. If the grains you have are frozen or dehydrated, you will need to follow the instructions they come with for reactivating them.

Step 3: Mix up the solution. The grains don't like chlorine, so don't use tap water, but a water filter will remove minerals which the grains need. There are two ways around this: either add mineral drops to filtered water, or boil tap water to remove chlorine. I use mineral drops, so I can't vouch for the other method. You want one quart of water for every 1/4 cup of grains you have. Add between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup sugar, and heat just a little so the sugar dissolves. Organic sugar is better for the grains, but it doesn't really matter how refined it is. Rapadura is fine. I use regular organic sugar plus a bit of molasses (the grains seem to like the molasses or unrefined sugar; it makes the kefir bubbly!) Cool to room temperature. (Note: I don't heat the water enough to the point where it needs cooling, but overly hot water will kill the kefir grains.)

Step 4: Transfer the solution into a quart mason jar and add 1/4 cup of grains. Cover with a piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter, and secure with a rubber band. You want to let air in, but keep dust and bugs out. Let this sit for between 24 hours and 72 hours. I culture for 48 hours.

Step 5: bottling time! You will need a strainer, a funnel, and a glass bottle with a lid. Arrange so the kefir can be strained and funneled into the bottle at the same time. (Put the funnel tip into the bottle, and put the strainer in the funnel.) The strainer is so you can strain out the grains - you wouldn't want to lose them! These can be used over and over again. Close the lid on the bottle and, for maximum fizziness, leave in the bottle for three days.

I haven't even told you the best part yet. The best part is . . . the grains multiply! So you can make even more yummy probiotic soda, and then when you are up to your ears in bottles, you can give extra grains to friends! Isn't that cool? Also, you can eat extra kefir grains like a probiotic supplement.

Here are some cool links about water kefir:
This link lists all the strains of microorganisms that are in water kefir. The Candida in water kefir is NOT Candida Albicans (the one that makes people sick.)
Instructions for making water kefir (with pictures!) plus an enthusiastic explanation of health benefits. This link also sells grains.
Information on milk kefir, with water kefir info as well. Note: milk kefir is completely different from water kefir. Water kefir is dairy-free.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wool, wool, and more wool

A few months back, I did some spinning for a woman I know who raises sheep. The cool thing is, the sheep are completely grass-fed. Well, someone I know from church gives me this huge bag of wool, plus a spindle and some knitting needles. I must admit, I was a bit confused. Was I meant to spin this and send it back, or what? The next day I call her, and it turns out, the wool is for me to keep! Sort of like payment for the spinning. The wool is a Cotswold-Romney cross, and is remarkably soft for a longwool breed, in my opinion. Apparently, sheep that have not eaten grain have softer wool! Isn't that cool?
The pictures are, in order from top to bottom: spun yarn on my niddy-noddy; my new spindle with carded wool; and washed, uncarded wool.